Once you settle into your life in a new country, things start to be difficult. Around November or December expats tend to hit their low points because they’re missing out on special holidays at home. On Facebook, people post how they would give their right arm if they could have such and such or crying about the smallest things. I get it. I totally understand.
Living in a foreign country is no cake walk. I’ve been there and sometimes I still have culture shock. There are days where I’m like, “What the fuck?” Then there are the days I’m like, “Fuck yeah, I’m an expat!”
I wanted to give some friendly advice to those who have been down lately and some tips on how to cope with culture shock. These may be too general or too broad, but please feel free to comment on my blog and add your own tips and tricks.
1. Get by with just a little help from your friends
All expats are in the same boat together and our friendships are forged quickly and tightly. Vent to your friends. Do activities with your friends. Lean on them as they are likely sharing in the same stresses.
2. Do Things Alone
The lack in ability to communicate/read/write the new language can be frustrating and upsetting. Something as easy as grocery shopping or getting your hair cut has now become a major chore.
To get over this hump just ASK. Until you learn to do things on your own in your new country, ask everyone you can. Ask your coworkers, foreign friends, other expats or relatives if you have them. They’ll have some recommendations and you’ll be able to make the right decisions for you.
3. Learn the basics of your new language
I started by learning katakana and worked my way up. I now recognize a lot of kanji and my life has gotten considerably easier.
The first time I went to the grocery store and read a can of tuna, I felt like a genius who won the Pulitzer Prize. The harder the struggle, the more you appreciate your accomplishments.
4. Do What You Love
Moving abroad doesn’t mean you have to quit your hobbies. Look at it is a different adventure to do your hobbies in another country. Whether you’re a movie fanatic, avid runner, or sports lover, just do what you enjoy. Exercise releases endorphins making you happy and healthier. When you do things that make you happy, you focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
On days where I simply cannot stand people anymore, I take off on my bike, armed with snacks, drinks, my journal and a pen.
5. Get Out There
Avoid shutting yourself away in your own hole and not getting out. I guarantee there are places in your new foreign country that make you happy. What about the beach down the street or the café around the corner with your favorite curry? How about the thrift shop you just found with old and fascinating treasures?
6. Vent, Vent, Vent
There are always people who feel the same as you do. You can even have a venting potluck party and enjoy food with friends. Just remember, after you vent, leave your problems there and don’t focus on it.
You know all those things the locals wouldn’t be caught dead doing but you can get away with because you’re a foreigner? Yeah. Be the tourist. Enjoy your surroundings. Go see the world. It’s full of wonder and magic.
8. Ask For Packages from Home
That simple care package with all your favorite things like candy, clothes, hair products or books can mean the world of difference. A little trinket from home is a sigh of relief.
9. Find Something You Like About the Culture
Instead of saying, “I hate this and I hate that” focus on what you like about your new culture. For instance, I really enjoy the kindness of the Japanese and all their crazy, fun characters that come out of random. I also love the sanshin and eisa!
10. Make Friends with Your Foreign Neighbors!
If you can find a foreign friend who has been abroad to your country and understands the differences, befriend them! Or maybe you can befriend that kindly grandma or grandpa that always seems to smile and look out for you.
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